Future of Lillooet medical clinic uncertain after council rejects buying the building

The Lillooet Medical Clinic could close if no one offers to buy and maintain the building.

Council wants to hear more ideas about how to save it, mayor says

Six full-time doctors, including one surgeon and two anaesthetists, work at the Lillooet Medical Clinic. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

The only medical clinic in Lillooet, B.C., will close without a new owner, according to Lillooet mayor Marg Lampman. 

The doctor who owns the building in the Interior community about 250 kilometres northeast of Vancouver announced last fall that he wants to sell it because he's retiring from his practice.

"This is the first time that this [situation] has come forward," Lampman said. "It was a bit of a shock when it was first announced."

Clinic management asked the District of Lillooet to buy the building because most new doctors aren't interested in owning clinics and dealing with administration.

Lillooet council considered purchasing the building, but decided against it because it feels this responsibility shouldn't be placed solely on the District. 

"At this time council felt that it wasn't the way to go," Lampman told CBC's Doug Herbert in an interview on Daybreak Kamloops.

Lampman said council wants to hear ideas from other stakeholders and community members about how to solve the problem.

It's one that's common throughout B.C.: not enough doctors to serve communities. The shortage is part of a larger trend in which long-serving small-town doctors are retiring while newly minted doctors want to work fewer hours.

Regional medical clinic

Lillooet, with a population of 2,275 according to Statistics Canada, isn't the only community that uses the clinic. Lampman said six of the surrounding First Nations and residents from the nearby communities of Lytton, Seton, Gold Bridge and even the city of Kamloops are patients at the Lillooet Medical Clinic.

"It is more of a regional medical clinic," Lampman said.

"Council is looking at getting the communities, because it's more than just Lillooet that's involved, in the discussion and planning about what our next steps will be in maintaining a medical clinic."

People from all over B.C.'s Interior and the Fraser Valley use the Lillooet clinic. (Google Maps)

Lampman said she has been in discussion with Interior Health about the clinic. When CBC contacted Interior Health, they declined to comment because the practice is private. 

Lampman said the community has less than two years to find a way to keep the clinic in operation, because none of the other doctors at the practice want to run the business. 

When CBC called the clinic for comment, none of the doctors were available. 

Six full-time physicians work out of the clinic, including one surgeon and two anaesthetists. 

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

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